Calls for writing are all over the internet. Use them.
Anyone who writes over the long-term has periods of flat, dull and uninspired writing. This can be frustrating and even depressing but it's normal and easier to deal with than you might think and the remedy is right in front of you. Here it is: The only way to cure stale writing is with fresh writing.
There are free and easy ways to freshen up your writing and connect with your readers and endless methods for you to experiment with your writing on a larger canvas or at least, a different one. All of them can unlock new avenues for your work. Today, I'll explore five of them.
Five ways to bring the spark back into your writing. I have used them all over the years and they aren't mutually exclusive. Mix and match and create your own.
1. Use real calls for submissions. The amazing thing about real calls for submissions is everything you need is there: a theme, a target audience, a format, a wordcount, and a deadline. Calls for writing are all over the internet. Use them. It doesn't matter if you have zero intention of actually submitting your work and you can ignore the submission fees and methods. You can always go back to that if you end up writing something that you would actually like to submit, but that's not the goal. The goal is similar to giving your students a mock exam. Set up all of the conditions to write and very soon pretending to fulfill an assignment becomes a real writing assignment. Type: calls for submissions for writers and you'll have more assignments than anyone could handle.
2. Step outside of your writers' comfort zone. Shift perspectives. One, two or all of them. Let's start with tense. How to shift tense? If you normally write in present tense, write in past or in future tense. You can give your brain a new challenge to tackle and spark creativity almost instantly. Similarly, consider writing from third person if you're used to writing in first person and vice versa. Writing in the present offers an experience of immediacy and writing in the past offers distance and a broader scope.
3. Shift POV. If you are used to writing from an adult perspective, try a child's perspective. Anything you can flip is up for grabs in this one. And you can go all out. If you are writing from an adult's perspective, why not an older adult? You can bounce from the male to the female point of view or even the point of view of a ghost or an angel. By changing perspectives to ones you do not normally tackle, you can uncover different character motivations and reactions. Could you take a story you have already written and rewrite it from the point of view of a different character? What about a story that's frustrating you. Can you flip something? Perhaps write from the perspective of the boss instead of the employee. Of course, you could. You might be surprised at how this turns out.
4. Shift Time and Place. Consider the time period in a story you're stuck on. Set a story twenty-five years in the past or the same amount of time forward into the future. This can be a story you've already written or one you're working on right now. Take your character on a plane. If your work until now has been set in a specific city, consider a story set in another country or any other city you may have spent time in, even for a few days. Shifting location and time perspectives can fundamentally alter the way you write about your characters, their emotions and their experiences. You will instantly add depth and variety to your work. Take your characters on a vacation or a business trip and see what happens. For an example, the entire novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer does this and it won a Pullitzer Prize for fiction in 2018. Every few chapters the hero is in an entirely new country and culture. So, not only can this work, it can work very well.
5. Change mediums. It doesn't matter if you're trying to write a novel or a short story, try something else for a morning or an afternoon. For example, consider writing five pages of a screenplay, which is the same as a five-minute film or a five-minute stage play. This will challenge you to write something in which every word counts. Every minute of filming costs a lot of money and those stage plays need to pay their actors, too.
In addition to a hyper focus on dialogue, this will help you with visual writing as you are forced to picture the entire scene down to its last detail in order to provide stage direction. It will also force you to consider the lighting, the sound and the movement of each character. How does that main character move? Clomp across the stage? Tiptoe?
These exercise sharpen your story telling skills and expand your understanding of structure. It might also force you to draw your inspiration from other mediums such as films and plays, whereas previously you were using only other novels or short story collections as mentor works. This is not limited to screenwriting. If you've always written for adults, try a ten page children's book or a poem. The point is to switch mediums to strengthen an underused muscle or two.
In conclusion, by incorporating these five strategies into your writing, you'll increase your chances of unlocking your writing potential. You can deepen the emotional resonance of your narratives by experimenting with perspectives in time, place and POV and simulate deadlines by using calls for submissions that you may ignore in real life. By playing with form and medium you can explore new areas and breathe new life into your work.
I'd love to hear how any of these ideas work for you.
Photo credit: Unsplash Warren wflwong
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